Groundbreaking new device helps correct Chicago man’s severe bow legs

Charles Jefferson OrthoSpin
Charles Jefferson after receiving robotic orthopaedic surgery to correct his bow leg deformity.
In high school, Charles Jefferson’s severe bow leg didn’t stop him from playing football and wrestling. But as he got older, the curve in his right leg became more severe, causing terrible leg and knee pain. It became nearly impossible for him to work.

Shortly after his 23rd birthday, Jefferson went to see University of Chicago Medicine orthopaedic surgeon Aravind Athiviraham, MD. He referred Jefferson to his colleagues who specialize in bone deformities and orthopaedic trauma.

The orthopaedic team agreed that Jefferson’s bow leg was one of the worst they've ever seen and they proposed using a groundbreaking new technology called OrthoSpin to straighten his leg.

UChicago Medicine became the first hospital in the Midwest and only the third hospital in the U.S. to use this robotic OrthoSpin device.

During Jefferson's outpatient surgery in March 2021, his right leg bone was cut and attached to a large external circular frame held in place with eight pins. The frame was controlled by six computerized OrthoSpin struts.

Seventeen times a day, OrthoSpin made small, automatic adjustments to those pins, keeping the leg bone straight as it healed. In the past, patients would have to manually adjust their own leg frame six times a day, a complicated and problematic process.

Once OrthoSpin kept the bone straight and in place, it just had to heal. Jefferson had to wear the large frame around his leg for about six months.

It was removed Sept. 23, 2021, and the South Side resident said he could hardly wait to do things he couldn’t do with the brace, like sleep on his stomach or wash his whole leg in the shower.

“I miss work. I know that sounds crazy, but I miss working and driving my own car,” said Jefferson, who now works in audio production.

It was a difficult six months for Jefferson, who faced both a physical and mental battle during his recovery. An active and independent man, he was often stuck at home. Several times a day, he had to ask his mom or girlfriend to help him with basic needs like getting dressed or taking a shower.

The first few months, his leg pain was intense and constant. Medications and pain relief techniques didn’t seem to help. Jefferson admits that at times it hurt so much, he cried.

But he persisted and stayed focused on healing. He went to physical therapy twice a week for a month, took vitamins and minerals for bone health, tried to stay as active as possible, and went to regular doctor appointments where his leg was scanned to see how it was healing.

The pain slowly began to subside. Soon he was walking on the treadmill and could go out more easily on his own.

“I was determined,” he said. “This journey has been crazy, but it’s been worth it.”

Because of the severity of his bow leg deformity, Jefferson needed to wear the brace longer than usual. A quicker treatment – such as breaking Jefferson’s leg in hopes that it would grow back straight – wasn’t a guarantee. It could have resulted in Jefferson’s leg needing to be broken again and again. It's why doctors determined that OrthoSpin was the right treatment for his bow legs.

When there's a large deformity, the brace can correct it gradually. It's not for everyone, though, and there are other options available to correct less severe bow legs. UChicago Medicine's orthopaedic team has a range of services that it can tailor to each individual patient.

Jefferson said anyone with severe bow legs considering surgery with the OrthoSpin brace needs to accept that it's a long, painful process and will require an at-home support system.

“This is definitely something where you’ll need a person around you 24 hours a day. I couldn’t have done this by myself,” he said. “This surgery will be the best decision you made, for your health. But it takes time. You really have to be prepared for it.”
Aravind Athiviraham

Aravind Athiviraham, MD

A specialist in orthopaedic sports medicine, Aravind Athiviraham, MD, cares for patients with athletic and overuse injuries, including anterior or posterior cruciate ligament tears, meniscus or cartilage injury, patellar or shoulder instability and elbow ulnar collateral ligament tears. He is skilled in minimally invasive and arthroscopic procedures of the knee, shoulder and elbow.

Learn more about Dr. Athiviraham
Ho Ortho Knee Surgery

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